The future is story.
I spend less time on social media now. In fact, I spend less time online in general. Beyond using the internet to help me develop my online classes, I do my best to skirt the digital world like the rabbit hole that it is. When I happen to find myself scrolling, I feel like an addict trying to avoid relapse. I used to compulsively engage in online arguments. My weapon of choice was information and I wielded it deftly.
Unfortunately, data doesn’t change us, stories do. The belief that if only people had the right information then they would see the error in their ways isn’t bringing us any closer to creating the change we seek to make in the world. If connecting us to our humanity were as simple as disseminating information then we wouldn’t be so politically divided, on the verge of environmental collapse, and wasting our precious time shouting into the void.
But we are and we have no shortage of information. So we need to find other ways of waking people up to what’s actually happening in the world. Which is not to say that we don’t have use for data. As much as bombarding each other with research and statistics is proving unproductive, so is swimming in uninformed or unfounded opinions. Instead, what we need is to become better storytellers. So we can take all this information and make it human again.
I just started watching the show Kidding. In it, the main character is a children’s show host. For personal reasons, he wants to do an episode on death. Which he does in front of a live audience but it isn’t aired because the show’s producer is wary of how it might impact his brand. Kidding looks at the way we deal—or don’t deal—with the challenges we face in life. It illuminates the power of storytelling as a means to talk about difficult topics.
This week, I start filming the first of a series of online courses designed to help creatives rewrite their money story. While my filming setup is simple, I have puppets and a few props that are integral to the teaching process. I’m using story as a way to relay information that might otherwise feel overwhelming. Money can be a charged topic on the best of days and my hope is that puppets and narrative make it more approachable.
The wise words of Toni Cade Bambara are guiding me through this process: “The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible.” Whether we’re making puppets to talk about money to adults or approaching the topic of death in a way that a child can understand, it’s our ability to be skillful storytellers that decides whether or not our message is heard. The revolution is here and the future—our future—depends on story.
What stories will help you create the change you seek to make?